The Queens district attorney upgraded the charges against six teenagers to include murder as a hate crime after they allegedly beat an 18-year-old to death outside a birthday party in Woodhaven earlier this year.
The teens, five of whom are from Queens, allegedly attacked Anthony Collao, 18, of Long Island, on March 13 after he left a party where the defendants yelled anti-gay slurs, according to DA Richard Brown and the police. The attackers allegedly threw Collao against a car on 90th Street between 88th and 89th avenues and punched, kicked and struck him with a stick, pipe and cane before stealing his baseball cap and sneakers, the DA said.
Collao was not gay, but the hosts of the party were, according to friends and family.
The Long Island teen, who had recently graduated from Island Trees High School in Levittown and had planned to study engineering in college, died two days later as a result of injuries sustained during the beating, according to Brown.
“The defendants are now charged with having been motivated by hate in committing this brutal and unprovoked attack and robbery,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Hate crimes, whether they be motivated by sexual orientation, gender, religion or ethnicity, will not be tolerated in Queens County, which is proudly known as one of the most diverse areas in the country. When they do regrettably occur, they will be condemned in the strongest possible terms and those responsible will be brought to justice to answer for their actions.”
Nolis Ogando, 18, of Ridgewood; Alex Velez, 17, of Richmond Hill; Christopher Lozada, 17, of Woodhaven; Calvin Pietri, 17, of Woodhaven; Luis Tabales, 16, of Richmond Hill; and Jonathan Echevarria, 16, of Brooklyn, are each charged in a 21-count indictment that includes murder, manslaughter, assault and robbery as hate crimes.
Police caught the five teens from Queens about 15 minutes after the attack, and Echevarria was arrested earlier this month, the DA said. The six teens have all been arraigned on the indictment and ordered held without bail.
Collao lived on Long Island with his family but frequently made trips to Woodhaven to visit his girlfriend and had been planning to attend LaGuardia Community College, according to his 14-year-old sister, Karen Collao.
“He was the kind of person people would meet and think, ‘where have you been all my life?’” Karen said in a previous interview with the Queens Chronicle.
Numerous elected officials and residents have condemned the murder, and hundreds attended a vigil for Collao at the end of March.
“He was a young man with endless opportunities,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said in March. “We will not allow hate to fester in our city.”